With exactly 925 youth soccer games under his belt, a San Diego-based referee has hung up his whistle and retired from the field.
American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) ref Ron Newby, who recently turned 78 years old, told NBC 7 Friday that he refereed his first soccer game back in 1979 – sort of by mistake.
At the time, Newby’s then-10-year-old daughter was playing youth soccer and, during one of her games, Newby asked someone in charge of the match-up if they needed help.
Newby said that man handed him a whistle and a booklet. The following weekend, Newby reported to the soccer field to referee his first game.
Over the years, Newby went on to referee many of his children’s games. When his kids were finished playing AYSO soccer, he stopped refereeing for a while.
Then, his grandkids came along, and the field beckoned him once more.
He grabbed his whistle and uniform and began refereeing games for his granddaughters and grandson.
Over the decades, Newby said he’s overseen some very memorable match-ups. He keeps a log of each game, which is how he knows he has worked exactly 925 of them.
“I've done games where one team was entirely deaf. I've done games where it's a boys’ team but they had a lot of girls playing on the team,” he recalled, smiling. “There's a lot of variety out there and it was fun.”
Newby said he’s always looked at refereeing as an opportunity to get involved with youth and to keep fit.
“It gives you a chance to become a part of them. And to really enjoy the game and the kids themselves," he explained. “I think I would have missed out on an awful lot had I not had that kind of opportunity."
He said his time as a ref has been filled with three important things: “heart, excitement and fun.”
Last weekend, Newby refereed his final soccer game – an all-stars playoff game in San Marcos, north of San Diego County. He said it was a jammed-packed weekend, with ref gigs on Saturday and three games on Sunday.
Newby said his ref gig has certainly kept him looking and feeling young, and he's grateful for the experience.
His family said Newby is an inspiration to his children and grandchildren - a winner in his own right.